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Fathers, we must make a difference in lives

June 15, 2013
By MIKE MATHISON - Sports editor , The Herald-Star

Happy Father's Day.

I don't talk a lot about my father.

He was an alcoholic and we didn't say a word to each other in the final year of his life.

The day he died, I received a phone call at college from my uncle Pat (his brother, also an alcoholic) and when i picked up the phone, I knew.

"He's dead, right?" I said.

My uncle confirmed and I hung up the phone.

My father and uncle really didn't like each other and it bordered on hatred.

I later figured out it was because they were so much alike.

Also, please understand that my uncle never talked to his daughter the last year of his life.

She and I have had a few talks about that.

"Alcoholics are very selfish people," I would say to her.

I had been there. I understood that.

The last fun thing I remembered about my dad was the three-week summer vacation we took as a family before by eighth-grade year.

We went to Mount Rushmore, the Pro Football, Basketball and Baseball Hall of Fames, Boston, Washington D.C. and Carlsbad Caverns, amongst other places.

The following summer, my mother kicked my father out of the house and, except for one year of living with him as I went to junior college, we really had little contact until that fateful Easter when the argument ensued in 1982 and I stopped talking to him altogether.

I never, and I mean, never saw my father at any high school sporting event where I played.

Never.

Never saw him at a football stadium, in a gym or at a track event.

After my sophomore year in high school, I stopped looking.

I later found out during my year of living with him that he went to some football games and some track meets but always stayed away from people, away from my mother and, basically, out of sight.

Idiot.

He explained his reasoning, but I would have none of it.

I am 53-years-old and cannot fathom not being a part of the lives of my children.

It is so much fun being a father.

And, it just keeps getting better.

Watching my daughter and son grow to be the young woman and young man of God they are is really rather humbling.

I watched and coached my daughter in sports for eight years (I know, poor girl).

We had many father-daughter moments, but they drew to zero when she was a senior (I am a slow learner, but I do learn).

I coached my son for one year un Upwards flag football and realized I would much rather watch him play than coach him.

Actually, I largely prefer to coach girls.

When boys act as they do, there is a temptation to throw them through a wall.

It's never like that with girls.

I make it a point to be involved with my children.

That's my job.

No award or appreciation needed.

That's my job.

I cannot put a value on the importance of being a father.

God has allowed me to be a parent and I am trying to be a million times better father than my father.

I pray my son is a million times better father than I.

I truly think we fathers forget the influence we have on our children and their friends.

Sure, we are dorks at times to our kids, not cool at other times and complete pains in the rear most other times, but so what?

I remember my father telling me to go to church on Sunday mornings, but he wouldn't go himself.

So, after a while, I rode my bike to church, parked it at the playground and played until church was over.

I then went in front of the church, bought the Sunday paper and rode home.

I did that for a really long time.

If going to church wasn't important to my father, it wasn't important to me.

Wasn't a big fan of my father demanding something of me that he didn't demand of himself.

I talked to my grandmother (his mom) about the final days of my father (he died of cancer), but I really don't remember much, or anything, of what she said.

It wasn't important then.

And, really not now.

Yes, he taught me some things that I try to pass onto my son.

But, the biggest thing he taught me was how not to be a dad.

I have taken that to heart.

I got out of the golf business because I was spending too much time away from my family.

Not a Father of the Year thing, but country club members sometimes forget that we are husbands and fathers first, and golf professionals somewhere down the line.

Yes, I still have some really strange hours, but I am at church every Sunday with my family, take my son to school every morning, where I am the crossing guard, athletic director and girls basketball coach.

I pick him up every day and we either go home, to mow lawns, to therapy or the in-season sports practice.

I couldn't do that while a golf pro.

I also get to enjoy my daughter in what may be her last summer at home during college.

No price tag there.

I talk to my daughter about life, her life and her after-college life.

I talk to my son about anything and everything my father did not talk to me about.

We talk about grades, girls, sports, attitude and how I can still school him in one-on-one (especially now that he is rehabbing a torn ACL).

It is also my job to be a father-figure to the girls I coach.

I am to reinforce the rules at their home, but also care for those who do not have fathers at home.

It's really a lot of fun.

I understand the rifts between dads and kids.

I witnessed one first-hand.

I also realize that, for me, the rift was because God was not a priority in my life back then.

Not even sure God was in the top 20.

That has changed.

I understand now, through God, the importance of my role as father.

It's a role I embrace and accept.

I am far from perfect.

I make mistakes with my children daily. But, they also know where I am each day.

We are a sports family.

My wife played in high school and golf at Cal-State Fullerton. She has three older brothers, one of whom was a high school football coach.

My daughter played three sports and my son plays three sports.

I coach, watch, attend and write about sports.

Our family realizes that sports is a great teacher - win, lose or draw.

Sports teaches us all humility and grace and kindness.

But, for me, that is only done through God.

For that, I am thankful to my wife for getting me back into church 21 years ago.

Because, I have learned that if it is important to me, it is important to my children.

"And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." - Ephesians 6:4

This means I am not to do things on purpose that will make my children angry, resentful or discourages.

This does mean I am to set boundaries and make decisions that I think is best for them (even though they really may not like it).

This means I play the role of the bad guy, which I am really OK with.

It means I must say "no," which I am also really OK with.

I am the one being held accountable for my children, and I am really OK with that, too.

My children will make good decisions and bad decisions.

My job is to have their back both times - to teach, learn and love.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at mmathison@heraldstaronline.com)

 
 

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